Peter Rothstein and Dan Chouinard on “Steerage Song,” a new musical about coming to America
Peter Rothstein, the artistic director of Theatre Latte Da, has put his genial touch on many of the most enjoyable, thoughtful musical theater productions in the Twin Cities in the last 10 years—exploding the very notion of what a “musical” is. And he’s done it again, with musical collaborator Dan Chouinard, in “Steerage Song,” an original work compiling music about immigrating to America.
Rothstein’s own roots are classically Irish-American: He grew up in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, as the youngest of 11 children. He’s often repeated what his mother would say, “The good Lord gives you only what you can handle, nothing more, nothing less.” His father ran a savings and loan business, along with real estate investments. The whole family would play the piano—singing Irish songs, naturally.
Both Rothstein and Chouinard attended St. John’s University, in Collegeville. Chouinard’s roots are decidedly French (anyone who’s heard him play accordion can attest to this). He even taught French (and Italian) at the University of Minnesota for four years.
Chouinard has been diligently researching his roots for some time, traveling to Quebec to meet distant relatives. And he’s bicycled throughout France, bringing an accordion with him (a small one). Alas, none of the music in “Steerage Song” is French.
In the following video, Rothstein offers a behind-the-scenes discussion of creating “Steerage Song.”